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Shrink rethink: rebranding psychiatry

  • Jim Crabb (a1), Lee Barber (a2) and Neil Masson (a3)
Summary

Negative public attitudes towards psychiatry hinder individuals coming for treatment and prevent us from attracting and retaining the very brightest and best doctors. As psychiatrists we are skilled in using science to change the thoughts and behaviours of individuals, however, we lack the skills to engage entire populations. Expertise in this field is the preserve of branding, advertising and marketing professionals. Techniques from these fields can be used to rebrand psychiatry at a variety of levels from national recruitment drives to individual clinical interactions between psychiatrists and their patients.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Jim Crabb, Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Stirling Rd, Larbert, FK5 4WR, UK. Email: jcrabb1@nhs.net
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Declaration of Interest

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Footnotes
References
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1 Maidment, R, Livingstone, G, Katona, M, Whitaker, E, Katona, C. Carry on shrinking: career intentions and attitudes to psychiatry of prospective medical students. Psychiatr Bull 2003; 27: 30–2.
2 Rajagopal, S, Redhill, KS, Godfrey, E. Psychiatry as a career choice compared with other specialties: a survey of medical students. Psychiatr Bull 2004; 28: 444–6.
3 Eagles, JM, Wilson, S, Murdoch, JM, Brown, T. What impact do undergraduate experiences have upon recruitment into psychiatry? Psychiatr Bull 2007; 31: 70–2.
4 Mahdawi, A. Marmite: love or hate its PR, you have to admit it's strong stuff. The Guardian 2011; 30 November (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/30/marmite-love-it-hate-it-pr).
5 Gaebel, H, Zäske, H, Zielasek, J, Cleveland, HR, Samjeske, K, Stuart, H, et al. Stigmatization of psychiatrists and general practitioners: results of an international survey. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2015; 265: 189–97.
6 Davies, T. Recruitment into psychiatry: quantitative myths and qualitative challenges. Br J Psychiatry 2013; 202: 163–5.
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8 Jones, R. 13 of the most creative recruitment campaigns. Recruit Buzz 2014; 18 August (http://recruitmentbuzz.co.uk/13-of-the-most-creative-recruitment-campaigns/).
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Shrink rethink: rebranding psychiatry

  • Jim Crabb (a1), Lee Barber (a2) and Neil Masson (a3)
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eLetters

Rethinking rebranding

Stephen Ginn, Consultant Psychiatrist, Camden and Islington Foundation NHS Trust
24 January 2018

Recruiting sufficient psychiatrists in the UK apparently resists straightforward remedy. Crabb et al’s recent editorial Shrink rethink: rebranding psychiatry (1) is a welcome contribution on this subject. Innovative and provocative in turn, it urges that the psychiatric profession draw on expertise from the fields of advertising and public relations. We should engage with potential recruits by thinking of psychiatry as a 'brand'.

But brands are ethereal things. Their existence is championed by some (2), whilst others have written about the negative impacts of brand-orientated corporate activity (3). Marketing psychiatry as a brand certainly has an attractive simplicity. Yet doing so situates the practice of psychiatry in the realm of things that are bought and sold, where it sits only uncomfortably.

The ubiquity of some brands is a marketing triumph, but emulating their tactics is not necessarily desirable. The advertising of brands seeks to sow discontent; to demonstrate to customers a gap in their life experience that a product can fill. Attempts to promote brands and products by association with certain desirable lifestyles may be effective, but also disingenuous. This approach may be acceptable for a soft drink, but should be approached with caution by the medical profession.

In addition the management priorities of the corporations that own many brands only faintly resemble psychiatry’s governance structures. Psychiatry’s relationship with its ‘competitors’ is more complex. If one company enters administration as a result of the crushing success of a rival, then that’s capitalism ‘working’. But if by increasing psychiatry’s share of trainee recruitment we substantially weaken a fellow specialty, this success is equivocal.

Arguably, acknowledged or not, psychiatry is a brand of sorts. Doctors making career decisions may be accustomed to thinking of themselves as consumers and consider their options in a transactional way. In this case the explicit branding of psychiatry makes some sense, and in recognizing this possibility Crabb et al provide a valuable insight. But promoting psychiatry as a brand may mean that other ways of understanding how our specialty might appeal are overlooked. What I hope is not lost is the notion of the new recruits to psychiatry’s ranks as engaged citizens, drawn to this specialty as an expression of deeply held values and as a demonstration of commitment to their community and to wider society.

References

1. Crabb, J., Barber, L., Masson, N Shrink Rethink: rebranding psychiatry Br. J. Psychiatry (2017) 211, 259-261

2. The Case for Brands The Economist 2001: 8-14 September

3. Klein, N. No Logo (10th anniversary ed.). Fourth Estate: 2010

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Conflict of interest: None declared

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